Mastersball

Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Early Returns PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 18 January 2015 00:00

As much as I enjoy participating in all different types of fantasy baseball drafts, the days immediately following the drafts are rough, especially industry drafts. In addition to second-guessing myself on some of my picks, I cannot help but search the Internet for every draft review I can find. And, with each draft review comes the possibility that someone else will be second-guessing my picks as well, which makes things even worse. Industry owners simply cannot be overly sensitive to criticism. Unfortunately, this is something I still need to work on. And, for this reason, I always try to avoid being too harsh in my reviews of other industry drafts. After all, these guys know their stuff, and I’m sure there was a well-researched explanation for every one of their picks.

This past Thursday night, representatives from 13 different prominent fantasy sites (Lawr and Todd represented Mastersball) convened in Las Vegas for the annual Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) draft, a 13-team mixed league snake draft that uses the standard 5x5 categories with a 29-man roster (6 bench). Studying the FSTA draft results is always educational since it is usually the earliest non-keeper industry draft of the season, so it’s nice to finally have non-mock draft data to sift through.

Anyway, here are some of the picks that surprised me.

DRAFTED EARLIER THAN EXPECTED

Anthony Rizzo (Round 1, Pick 7) – I’m very high on Rizzo this year. With power becoming harder and harder to find these days, how can you not be high on him? There’s legitimate 40-home run potential here to go along with a solid batting average. This could very well work out for my Mastersball mates, but I wonder if they could have taken him in Round 2. Drafting the Cubs first sacker ahead of players like Carlos Gomez, Adam Jones, Jose Bautista and even Miguel Cabrera (despite the health concerns) is a rather bold move. heyward_jason

Jason Heyward (Round 4, Pick 3) – Yes, he’s still only 25, but what has Heyward done at the big league level to warrant this high of a pick? Through five seasons, he sports a career .262 batting average and has reached the 20-home run mark just once. Maybe the change of scenery will do him some good, but Heyward is coming off a rather uninspiring 2014 campaign and will need to at least match his career-best season stat line of .269-27-82-93-21 to earn back this price. I wouldn’t bank on it.

Mookie Betts (Round 7, Pick 6) – A quick glance at the draft results reveals that speed was at a premium, and perhaps no other selection illustrates this more than Betts, who swiped 33 bags in 99 minor league contests last season and stole another seven bases in 52 games for the Red Sox. But Betts was more than a one-category contributor for Boston, as he also launched five home runs and batted .291. That said, with the Red Sox Opening Day outfield projected to include Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino and Rusney Castillo, Betts is hardly guaranteed a spot on the 25-man roster to start the season. Brett Gardner, Shin-Soo Choo and Matt Holliday are just a few of the quality outfielders that were taken after Betts.

DRAFTED LATER THAN EXPECTED

Jacoby Ellsbury (Round 3, Pick 10) – I’m still not sure if I will actively target Ellsbury this year, but what I do know for sure is that if he’s still on the board at Pick #36, I would not hesitate to draft him. The Yankee offense was absolutely dreadful last season, but a healthy Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira (healthy at least for now) should make a significant difference. Don’t be surprised if Jacoby bounces back with a .290 AVG, 20 HR, 40 SB, 90 R campaign, a stat line worthy of a top-15 pick.

Jason Kipnis (Round 5, Pick 13) – Last year at this time, Kipnis was a no doubt top-25 guy, and I even remember reviewing NFBC draft results and seeing his name in the top-10. But after a disappointing and injury-marred 2014 season, this is what happens. I still believe that a 20 HR/30 SB season is in his immediate future and I’m willing to give him a mulligan for last year. There’s no way he should fall outside of the top-50.

Desmond Jennings (Round 15, Pick 11) – Here I go with Jennings again! After vowing to never again own him, the fact that he lasted until Pick #193 in this draft has me reconsidering this. It would be a real shame if Jennings finally breaks out right after I cut ties with him. Maybe I’ll give him another chance. Maybe I’ll draft him in one of my leagues.

Or maybe more than one.

CLICK HERE for the complete FSTA draft results.

Last Updated on Sunday, 18 January 2015 09:37
 
To Draft or Not to Draft? PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 11 January 2015 00:00
When it comes to fantasy baseball draft preparation, I tend to wait until early-February to kick things into high gear. But usually, I will have already made up my mind on more than half of the player pool before the high gear period begins, the most important factor being risk versus reward. For these players, no amount of additional research will be necessary. I either like him or I don’t. I will either target him or I won’t.

Then there are the players that require further research and further thought. I wouldn’t mind drafting them at the right price, but I do have some reservations. So, with the 2015 high gear draft preparation phase fast approaching, here are some of the guys who reside in this group.

Jacoby Ellsbury – The 16 homers and 39 steals were nice. The .271 AVG and 71 runs scored were not. On the whole, owners who invested a late-first round pick in the speedy outfielder last year came away disappointed, but Ellsbury is still a career .293 hitter, so a batting average improvement is likely. I’m also expecting a rebound in the runs department, as Ellsbury spent most of last season hitting in the No. 3 spot. With both Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira back in action, Jacoby figures to move up to one of the top two spots to open 2015. Plus, the Yankee offense cannot possibly be as anemic as it was last season, right? That said, Ellsbury won’t come at a discount. He will still cost a top-15 pick. He could be worth it, but at that stage of the draft, I’ll probably be looking elsewhere.

Matt Kemp – On one hand, Kemp is coming off a strong bounce back season in which he finally stayed healthy, playing 150 games after logging a combined 179 games from 2012-2013. Also in his favor is that he closed out the year in MVP form, batting .309 with 17 homers and 54 RBI in the second half. But he’s no longer an asset in the stolen base department, and it remains to be seen how his other numbers will translate to Petco Park. The Padres lineup is vastly improved, but it isn’t quite at the same level as the Dodgers. If Kemp is still available outside of the top-25, I might just take a chance, but I doubt that will be the case.

Yasiel Puig – First, Puig deserves a ton of credit for opening his big league career with two straight highly productive seasons, and at 24 years of age, he should only get better. The only issue I have with him, however, is that based on early mock drafts, his consensus price has been mid to late second round in a 15-team mixed league, a price that I consider to be too heavily inflated by upside. I could change my mind about this in the coming months, as the upside is significant. But for now, I’m hesitant to go all out for Yasiel.

Freddie Freeman – I was so high on Freeman last year that I owned him in three of my five leagues. While 2014 was far from a disaster for the Braves first sacker, I did expect more than 18 homers and way more than 78 RBI. I always believed that there was a .300-30-100 season in Freeman’s future, but I’m no longer so sure. Regardless, I do think he will be better in 2015, and I wouldn’t hesitate to again call his name should I miss out on the top-tier first basemen. But he’s no longer a must-have.

Justin Upton – Another longtime favorite of mine, Upton has fallen short of reaching the superstar status that some predicted, but there’s nothing wrong with being a consistent top-10 fantasy outfielder. The bad news is that Upton comes with the same Petco Park related question marks as Kemp. On the bright side, it’s not like Turner Field is known as a hitter-friendly park, and 18 of Upton’s 29 home runs last season came in Atlanta. Oh, and if you’re a believer in the contract year factor, there’s that to consider. Justin will probably find himself on at least one of my 2015 squads, but my enthusiasm will be more tempered than in years past.

Last Updated on Sunday, 11 January 2015 18:23
 
Worth the Gamble? PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 04 January 2015 00:00
For years, I have avoided participating in daily fantasy leagues, dismissing the whole concept as something that appealed to a different audience than the hardcore fantasy sports community. Chances are I wouldn’t even enjoy playing the game, as the tiny sample size results in a contest that is more based on luck than skill. But over the past week, perhaps influenced by Lawr’s Fanduel articles in addition to the plethora of ads, either online or on TV, for FanDuel and Draft Kings, I finally caved, investing a small sum of money in FanDuel. To be honest, it’s very addicting, and I’ll admit that there is a decent amount of strategy involved.

So far, I’ve played in six paid contests, all of them NBA, winning a prize only once, a $9 return on a $5 entry fee. Sure, Daily Fantasy is exciting, but for me at least, it has brought more frustration than joy. I will continue with it for a bit longer, but my experiment in Daily Fantasy might not last far beyond next weekend’s Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs.

As for Daily Fantasy Baseball, I think it’ll be too much to handle, being that I’m already in five full-season leagues. Just for fun, however, while we’re on the Daily Fantasy theme, let’s take a look at some of the top single-game performances from the 2014 MLB season.

Lonnie Chisenhall (6/9 @TEX): 5-for-5, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 2B, 3 R

A former top prospect, Chisenhall has fallen well short of meeting expectations, but for one day at least, he was the talk of baseball. The Indians third baseman ended up being one of only three players to post a 3 HR game last year. Both his nine RBI and 15 total bases were single-game records for 2014. Overall, Chisenhall’s 2014 season was a rocky one, but he’s slated to be Cleveland’s starting third sacker on Opening Day 2015. Still just 26 years of age, he offers some under the radar appeal, particularly in AL-only leagues.

Ryan Braun (4/8 @PHI): 3-for-5, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 3 R

Despite battling a thumb ailment right out of the gate (an injury that never quite went away), things looked so promising following this monster performance. But 2014 turned out to be a huge disappointment for the former MVP. Whether the letdown should be attributed mostly to the PED factor or the thumb issue is unclear, but after undergoing a thumb procedure in October, Braun insists that he’s back to 100 percent. Can he return to elite form? We shall see, but I have my doubts.

Chris Davis (5/20 @PIT): 4-for-5, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 4 R

Coming off a 53-home run campaign in 2013, Crash was a top-10 pick in drafts last spring, and though he did manage 26 homers across 127 games, Davis was arguably the biggest fantasy bust of the season relative to draft position. This was by far the highlight of his season. Maybe he gets back to 30-plus homers in 2015, but considering all the strikeouts, expect his batting average to be closer to the .196 mark he registered last season than the .286 average from two years ago. All in all, I think you’re better off letting him be someone else’s problem.

Dee Gordon (4/13 @ARI): 1-for-3, R, 2 BB, 4 SB

Aside from the four steals, there’s really nothing special about this stat line, but since steals is a roto category and Gordon was the only player to record a 4 SB game last year, I had to include him here. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a big fan of expensive stolen base specialists, preferring instead to spread out my speed sources, so I can safely say that Dee will not be a member of any of my fantasy squads in 2015.

Charlie Blackmon (4/4 vs. ARI): 6-for-6, HR, 5 RBI, 3 2B, 4 R

If not for Chisenhall’s 3 HR, 9 RBI outburst, this six-hit performance by Blackmon would easily win the top single-game award. While I won’t be avoiding the Rockies outfielder on Draft Day 2015, I am somewhat concerned about his pedestrian .264-5-20 line in the second half, this after batting .305 with 14 homers and 52 RBI prior to the Midsummer Classic. And then there’s the extreme home/road splits. At home, Blackmon’s numbers were MVP caliber. Away from Coors Field, he was no better than a mediocre player.

In other words, he’s an ideal Daily Fantasy target, and as long as he remains on the Rockies, that should continue.

Even if my career in Daily Fantasy does not.

OK, gotta go finalize my Wild Card Weekend FanDuel picks.

Last Updated on Sunday, 04 January 2015 00:43
 
Identity Change PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 21 December 2014 00:00

When was the last time the San Diego Padres offense was middle of the pack, let alone elite? It certainly hasn’t been in the last five years.

YEAR RUNS/GAME R/G RANK AVG AVG RANK
2014 3.3 30th 0.226 30th
2013 3.8 24th 0.245 23rd
2012 4.0 T-23rd 0.247 22nd
2011 3.7 28th 0.237 29th
2010 4.1 22nd 0.246 28th

Part of the blame can be attributed to the ballpark, as Petco Park, ever since its opening in 2004, has been widely considered the most pitcher-friendly park in the Majors. But at the same time, the lineup hasn’t exactly been loaded with sluggers. Over this five-year span, only two players, Chase Headley in 2012 and Adrian Gonzalez in 2010, have reached the 25-home run plateau. Headley and Gonzalez also happen to be the only two players who have recorded more than 64 RBI. Barring multiple injuries, 2015 will be a different story.

In all likelihood, an outfield of Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Wil Myers would rank as the best trio of any team in any fantasy league, let alone any team in the major leagues. And thanks to an attractive farm system, new Padres GM A.J. Preller was able to acquire these three bats without parting with any key pieces of the 25-man roster. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some risk with all three outfielders. Upton is entering the final year of his contract, Kemp needs to prove that he can stay healthy two years in a row and Myers is looking to rebound from an injury-plagued and overall disappointing sophomore campaign. But the reward, especially for the 2015 season, is enormous, and it’s refreshing to see a lower budget team like the Padres go out and make these kinds of moves.

After missing a combined 145 games due to injury from 2012-2013, Matt Kemp turned in a fully healthy season last year, and he posted a stellar stat line, batting .287 with 25 homers, 89 RBI, 77 runs scored and eight steals in 150 contests. From a fantasy standpoint, the fact that speed is no longer a significant component of his game knocks him out of the elite class of outfielders, and the move to Petco Park cannot be considered a good thing, especially when it comes to his projected home run total. Add in the injury risk, and I’d rather shell out 25-plus auction dollars or spend a top-30 pick on someone else.

Which outfielders would I draft ahead of Kemp? Well, Justin Upton is one of them. Though it might be time to give up on the idea that Upton will ever reach superstar status, the reality is that he’s been a very good player for awhile now and doesn’t turn 28 until August. Like Kemp, he can no longer be relied on for steals and Petco Park might take away some homers, but unlike Kemp, he’s been durable, having played at least 149 games in each of the last four seasons. In the early rounds, I’m all about minimizing risk, and by drafting Upton towards the back end of the top-30, you’re doing just that.

Perhaps no player is a better fit for the “post-hype sleeper” designation than Wil Myers. The former top prospect captured AL Rookie of the Year honors in 2013 by batting .293 with 13 home runs, 53 RBI and 50 runs scored in 88 games following his midseason call-up, but he managed a measly .222 batting average with six homers, 35 RBI and 37 runs scored last season while being limited to 87 games due to injury. Still, Myers is the type of talent that deserves another chance. Not only did he consistently produce elite stat lines while in the Minors, but his rookie season success is proof that he can thrive at the big league level with additional experience and better luck in the health department. But the best part is that while Myers might have been a bit overvalued at this time last year, there is enough doubt about him this time that he should be available at a very reasonable cost. Yeah, I would be higher on him if he were still in a Rays uniform, but the trade to San Diego does come with the added benefit of lowering his price tag even further.

No, division titles aren’t won in December. But unlike in recent years, the Padres front office is at least sending a message to their fan base and to the rest of the league that they’re going for it in 2015.

Last Updated on Sunday, 21 December 2014 02:32
 
Make That Move Right Now PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 14 December 2014 00:00
The week of the Winter Meetings tends to be the time when the Hot Stove kicks into high gear, and after opening at a snail’s pace, that’s exactly what happened this year. The Red Sox continued their roster overhaul while the Astros uncharacteristically splurged on a pair of free agents. Billy Beane did what Billy Beane typically does while the Yankees uncharacteristically did nothing. When it comes to evaluating off-season signings and trades from a fantasy standpoint, it’s easy to either become overly pessimistic or overly giddy about a certain player’s prospects, so I try not to fall into this trap, at least until I do some more research followed by some more thinking and then some more thinking. But more often than not, it’s the initial reaction that ultimately wins out, and more often than not, draft day decisions are heavily influenced by these initial reactions. On that note, here are my initial reactions regarding some of the players who made news this past week.

3 UP

Mat Latos

Yeah, there’s some risk with Latos, mostly health related, as elbow, calf and knee injuries limited him to just 16 starts last season. Then there’s the strikeout rate issue, as his K/9 dropped from 8.0 in 2013 to 6.5 in 2014. But his other ratios remained strong, and considering that he was coming off four straight seasons with at least 185 punchouts, I’m willing to give him a mulligan. I cannot help but think that the health woes contributed to the strikeout dip. Latos is still only 27, and moving from Great American Ball Park to Marlins Park should help him. I was able to grab Latos in the 17th round (#242 overall) in a 15-team mixed mock draft last month. Granted, this was before the trade to Miami, but 17th round? Chances are he will cost significantly more than that come March, but the value will still be there.

Brandon Moss

I’ve never been a huge fan of Moss since he’s a liability in batting average, but with power down throughout baseball, there’s a lot to like about a guy who has swatted a combined 55 homers to go along with 168 RBI over the past two seasons while playing half his games in a pitcher-friendly park. Now he gets to move into a more neutral hitting environment in Cleveland. Keep in mind that Moss posted an OPS of .831 on the road last year compared to a .703 mark at home. Although I won’t necessarily be targeting him in 2015, I won’t be afraid to draft him either.

Luke Gregerson

Since Gregerson made his big league debut in 2009, few relievers have been as consistently dominant. Now it sounds like he’s the leading candidate to close for his new club, and if he heads into the season as the Astros’ clear-cut ninth inning man, I wouldn’t have any problem drafting him as my No. 2 stopper in a mixed league. I don’t see the role change having any effect whatsoever on his performance level.

3 DOWN

Yoenis Cespedes

I was a lot more bullish on Cespedes when he was a member of the Red Sox. Now that he’s a Tiger, I’m lukewarm on him. One might be surprised to learn that 13 of his 22 homers last year came at home in Oakland, so maybe my concerns about him playing in spacious Comerica Park will prove to be unwarranted. But by investing in Cespedes, you’re paying for the home runs, as he won’t be of much use in the batting average department and he doesn’t run anymore. And how many home runs is he going to hit? Maybe 25? Is he really that much better than the aforementioned Brandon Moss? If Cespedes falls into my lap on draft day, I guess I’d take him. But odds are the price will be too high for my liking.

Wade Miley

Speaking of liking, I’ve always liked Miley as a pitcher who you could draft to round out your fantasy staff who fits the high floor/low ceiling description. Last season was disappointing though, outside of the career-high 183 strikeouts. I was a Miley owner in Tout Wars, and despite hanging onto him from start to finish, I ended up relegating him to matchup duty where I’d only start him for his road outings (5.61 home ERA vs. 3.17 road ERA). Chase Field is a tough place to pitch, but is Fenway Park any easier? No, the AL East lineups aren’t as scary as they used to be, but it’s still the American League with the DH and a division with a number of hitter-friendly ballparks. Wade, it was nice knowing you.

Rick Porcello

Porcello will be only 26 on Opening Day, and he’s coming off a career-best season, so maybe this will all work out. But after significantly improving his strikeout rate in 2013, his K/9 sunk back down to its usual sub-6.00 level last year. On the other hand, Porcello does have excellent control, which at least partially makes up for the underwhelming strikeout rate. I guess it all depends on his draft day cost, but the bottom line is that moving from Detroit to Boston cannot be viewed as a good thing, and quite a few owners will be banking on him taking another step forward after last season’s breakthrough campaign. I won’t be one of them.

Last Updated on Sunday, 14 December 2014 00:51
 
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